Unbeaten Virginia steps up in class to face No. 21 North Carolina

Unbeaten Virginia steps up in class to face No. 21 North Carolina

Virginia looks for its first road win against a Top 25 opponent since 2011 when it visits No. 21 North Carolina for an Atlantic Coast Conference game Saturday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Head coach Mack Brown of the Tar Heels (1-1, 0-1 ACC) feels the visiting Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0) aren’t getting enough respect.

“They should be rated higher than they are,” Mack said. “They should be rated higher than we are. They’ve dominated two games.”

Lately Virginia has also dominated the series against UNC, billed as the “South’s Oldest Rivalry.” This is their 126th meeting dating back to 1892, with the Cavaliers sweeping the last four contests.

“It’s not even on my mind,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said when asked about his recent success against the Heels. “Looking back doesn’t help anyone. We’re focusing only on today and today’s preparation and then we’ll do the same tomorrow, and we’ll do the same until we show up to play.”

The Cavaliers dominated Illinois in a 42-14 victory last Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. Brennan Armstrong passed for 405 yards and five touchdowns, 6-foot-7 tight end Jelani Woods caught five passes for 122 yards and one score, and Dontayvion Wicks caught two TDs.

This is the first of five games for Virginia against teams currently ranked in the Top 25, including road games at No. 24 Miami (Sept. 30) and No. 23 BYU (Oct. 30).

The Tar Heels began the season ranked No. 10 before losing their ACC opener at Virginia Tech.

“After the opening ball game, we had to quit worrying about rankings and we had to quit worrying about the conference,” Brown said. “We had to play better and get back on track.”

Fueled by Sam Howell, North Carolina did just that with a 59-17 home thumping of Georgia State last Saturday night.

Howell passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards and two more scores, including a career-long 62-yard scamper. The only other Tar Heels quarterback with 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game was Marquise Williams against Notre Dame in 2014.

In two meetings with the Cavaliers, Howell is 38-of-57 passing for 796 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

Brown announced that cornerback Ladaeson DeAndre Hollins is out for the season with a lower-body injury suffered against Georgia State. Guard Joshua Ezeudu and running backs British Brooks and D.J. Jones will be evaluated during the week before their status for Saturday is determined. Safety Ja’Qurious Conley left Saturday’s game with an injury to his left hand and re-entered the game wearing a cast.

As for Virginia, Armstrong was treated in the medical tent during the Illinois game for an apparent leg/knee injury before returning to the field.

“Anytime your quarterback has anything, I’m concerned,” Mendenhall said. “I haven’t heard, which is always good news, otherwise I would have got texts and emails and alerts and reminders. I haven’t had any of that.”

Defensive end Adeeb Atariwa was in street clothes for the Illini game but Mendenhall is “hopeful” he can play this Saturday.

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